Thank you for visiting the Portland Underwater Curiosity Park Home Page.
My name is Derek Luckhurst and I created the Park.
Let me tell you a bit about it.
The Underwater Curiosity Park (or Park) is in Balaclava Bay, which is just to the south-west of Portland Harbour’s southern entrance, commonly referred to as the ‘Hood’ entrance. For the non-nautical /navigational, if motoring through Portland Harbour, turn right once over the Hood entrance, going west its 200m away. For the nautical, the exact coordinates are:
|1||N50o 34.069||W2o 25.504|
|2||N50o 34.080||W2o 25.465|
|3||N50o 34.030||W2o 25.432|
|4||N50o 34.019||W2o 25.470|
The Park is 100m by 50m and at 5000m2 is the same size as a small football pitch (believe it or not, there isn’t an exact size of a ‘standard’ football pitch). It is tucked neatly into an area called Balaclava Bay and conveniently is within 50m of a popular wreck known as ‘the Dredger’. You can’t miss the Park as it is clearly marked out by 4 yellow buoys, one at each corner. (Note: these buoys are removed over the winter and replaced in April each year).
The depth of the Park varies from 10m to 14m.
Protected from southerly, south westerly and westerly winds (which are the biggest challenge to local dive boat charters) by Portland Isle itself and protected by the harbour breakwater to the north, with minimal tidal currents, it is possible to dive the Park when unfavourable conditions prevent diving elsewhere.
The bottom is gritty sand, so kicking up silt to adversely affect visibility is not a problem. However, after big tides, visibility might be reduced. You will need a boat to visit the Park as the shoreline is in a restricted area within the Portland Harbour Authority’s boundary. You will also need a boat permit and dive permit, but these are inexpensive and easily obtainable. Go to Dive/Boat Permits on the Home Page or click here. Alternatively, you can visit the Park by booking through:
- The Old Harbour Dive Shop, Weymouth – click here for details
- Dive Beyond, Castletown – click here for details
- Skin Deep, Weymouth – click here for details
All of the above scuba diving business offer training, cylinder refills, equipment hire and chartering.
The Park itself provides a number of interesting artefacts to discover, explore and tease. From a reconstructed ruined Roman temple complete with statues, columns, ancient masonry and 2 sphinxes (OK – I know sphinxes came from Egypt and Greece – imagine these were stolen by the Romans in 150AD) to a 2.5m long shark and a 4m long by 1.2m wide pipe tunnel to swim through. For more details of the artefacts go to Basic Info click here.
Each artefact was carefully lowered into position by crane on a pre-designated coordinate.
The dive, however, is not simply about seeing and experiencing the man-made artefacts. In the short time the artefacts have been on the seabed (since June 2018) they have attracted an enormous amount of varied sea life; spider crabs are in abundance and several literally fell on me as I swam through the pipe. I also swam through several shoals of whitebait and observed squid, pipefish and other fish I couldn’t name. A dolphin is a regular visitor to the area and has been spotted numerous times in and around the Park during the summer of 2018.
There are still more artefacts to go down and I am hoping to source a cannon, in particular. The general theme is anything related to, or symbolic of, Portland and the sea. For instance, there was a Roman Fortress on Verne Hill above Castletown and the pipes are symbolic of the old Portland stone quarries (bit of imagination needed there!). I also need to orientate some of the artefacts (move them around a bit) to provide a more logical progression around the Park and re-lay the guidance rope. However, this will have to wait until spring next year (2019). It will be interesting to see what effect nature has, in particular easterly storms, on the Park over the winter.
Over time, I am hopeful that sea life will proliferate and the Park will provide divers with an opportunity to see not just the artificial but the natural as well, as nature makes the Portland Underwater Curiosity Park its home.
But please, whatever you go down for, remember these 3 principles:
Enjoy the experience
Leave everything (natural and artificial) as it was
Tourist Information Centre,
TEL - 01305 443333
Mon-Fri: 10am - 3.30pm
Sat: 10am - 2pm